Scene and Be Seen – Home is Where the Frito Pie Is
My mom always says that everybody needs to be a regular somewhere. The team behind hit concept HG Sply Co think the folks in Rockwall do, too. Standard Service, which opened last October, has become the go-to neighborhood joint that serves up a wide range of dishes without sacrificing the quality of the “fresh Texas cuisine.” Its aim is casual yet well-crafted. Standard Service is a place where chicken parmesan sits in between a tuna and avocado sushi bowl and chicken fried chicken on the menu and it’s not weird; it’s a well-rounded eatery looking to appease your appetite no matter the craving. And it’s all fantastic. While HG Sply Co. is well known for its paleo-centered plates and active promotion of a healthy lifestyle, Standard Service is the mother who sneaks veggies into her kids’ desserts. Take the parmesan kale dip appetizer for example: the menu ambiguously says it’s “like your favorite spinach dip (only better),” and they’re not wrong, either. The kale that replaces the spinach adds a nice bulky green to this gooey queso-like creation that is topped with roasted tomatoes and more parmesan. It’s hearty, rich and the superfood replacement holds up wonderfully.
Another must-try appetizer is the bison chili Frito Pie. Before coming to Texas, I thought of Frito Pie as only the dish my dad made us as kids when my mom was out of town. Now I know Frito Pie is a cult classic in the Lone Star State and Standard Service’s version does it every bit of justice. Swapping out the usual beef for bison in the chili, this version piles Fritos, chili, cheddar, pinto and kidney beans and guacamole into a bowl and finishes it all off with a dash of lime crema and a sprinkling of green onion. This pie is so good that you don’t miss the ground beef with the other bold comforting flavors stealing the show. It isn’t a light appetizer by any means, but sharing it with friends and family- the whole focus of Standard Service- makes the calorie count manageable.
One menu concept borrowed from HG is the nice selection of bowl-style entrees available. It can make cutting carbs easier (like the bunless burger bowl) or simply puts fantastic ingredients together in a homestyle presentation. All bowls start out meat-free but you have the option of adding your favorite protein into the mix. The hands-down favorite of the table was the farmhouse bowl with grilled chicken: roasted redskin potatoes in herb butter anchor English peas, citrus chili-glazed baby carrots, dollops of local goat cheese with sliced chicken breast arranged over the top. The roasted potatoes were absolute perfection: browned to a rich crispness that maintained their structural integrity yet revealed to be fluffy on the inside. The herb butter mingled with the citrus chili glaze to create almost a broth-like sauce that was all at once sunny, sweet and had a pinch of warmth from the spices.
Not everything at Standard Service is necessarily heavy comfort fare; the chopped salad is one of the best I’ve had in recent memory. Mixed greens are tossed with a garden’s worth of vegetables with riced cauliflower and broccoli, tomatoes, cucumber and roasted beets, but the addition of dried cranberries, candied pecans and green grapes make this a true meal-size salad. Crispy rice and small crumbles of goat cheese are mixed in as well and the whole concoction is spritzed with a honey-sherry vinaigrette for a wonderful depth of garden flavors.
Standard Service’s mission to be the neighborhood clubhouse for Rockwall residents stands out in their drink menu. While the bar offers a nice selection of beer, wine, draft cocktails and non-alcoholic choices, The Usual section caught my attention. The Usual features five or six cocktails created by friends, family and other regular patrons. The twist is that $1 of each cocktail benefits a charity of the creator’s choice and is listed on the menu alongside the ingredients. What’s even more fun is the giant drink list on the wall spelled out in Scrabble-esque tiles with the current donation tally next to each beverage. The drinks are rotated monthly, with the top three sellers maintaining a spot on the list. It definitely eases ordering another round when it’s in the name of philanthropy.
The interior adds to the casual feel with towering open iron shelves and poured concrete floors, but the open garage door to the back patio provided a nice spring breeze that mimicked sitting out on your neighbor’s porch. Dress up, dress down, come in athletic wear or straight from the golf course- it doesn’t matter since you’re among friends.
Without sounding like the cheesy theme song from a popular sitcom, it really did seem like everyone knew each other at Standard Service. The bartender gave a few guys slaps on the back and people from other tables mingled on the patio. Kids ran and played around the outdoor space. Even for a Dallasite like me, I felt like part of the neighborhood crew at Standard Service.